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ActionAid Report on Participatory Democracy: Practices and Reflections

‘Democracy’ must deliver! That means, democratic governance should facilitate a continuous process of democratization - otherwise it becomes just a formal electoral process and ritualistic parliamentary affairs. Democracy reduces itself as the unproductive and ritual exercise of the ‘people’s representatives’ and they become alienated from and oblivious the interests of common citizens. In order to make ‘democracy’ work, citizens must actively engage in holding the elected representatives accountable and make them work in the interests of most marginalized sections of society – we can also call it the process of ‘democratizing’ a democracy. In other words, what is needed in today’s world is to build robust social movements towards transforming ‘elitist democracy’ to a ‘participatory democracy’. ‘Forum for Participatory Democracy’ aims at creating platforms to build and strengthen the discourse and practices of democratization, by bringing together community activists, social movements, public intellectuals, human rights campaigners, policy makers, media professionals and politicians from local to national to international level. The spirit of creating such a ‘forum’ is to invite diverse views and practices for critical and meaningful reflections, which can contribute to ‘democratic praxis’. As we have been advocating it, democracy cannot be purchased or sold; it cannot be imported or exported; nor can it be indoctrinated. Democracy is to be built through authentic and effective social-political processes and popular mobilizations in the given society. Critical reflections and praxis are crucial for building such an authentic movement. ActionAid has been involved in Nepal’s antipoverty campaign through its grassroots level social empowerment programmes; community organizations and transformative social mobilizations, human rights based policy research and advocacy initiatives and also engages with governmental agencies from local to national level; for promoting participatory democratic governance. Deepening democracy is key approach to our governance works from local to national level. ActionAid together with its partners and wider civil society alliances facilitate political advancement of people living in poverty and marginalized sections of society to hold duty bearers to account, develop propositions for national development strategies. Therefore, the vision of ‘participatory democracy’ provides an ‘umbrella perspective’ for our overall governance works aimed at poverty eradication. We, in ActionAid and IGD, feel really encouraged to see that the initiative for creating ‘Forum for Participatory Democracy’ has been appreciated widely in the country. Apart from the national forum, two sub-regional forums in the eastern and western region of Nepal have attracted hundreds of social activists, CSO leaders, social movements, academics, journalists and politicians to get involved in ‘democracy discourse’. Some interesting and important publications have emerged through these forum reflections. I hope this particular anthology will also add an important value towards future deliberations and actions for democratization. On behalf of AAN, I would like to appreciate the efforts made by paper contributors, commentators and also the forum participants who provided their valuable insights and critiques. My special gratitude goes to Dr Mukti Rijal and the team at IGD, whose hard efforts for editing and coordinating made this publication possible. My special thanks to all ActionAid Nepal colleagues, especially Govinda Prasad Acharya, who made contributions in various forms. Finally, on behalf of ActionAid Nepal colleagues, I would like to commit that we will keep engaging with you all and do our best efforts towards deepening and widening democratization processes from local to national to the international level. Bimal Kumar Phnuyal Country Director ActionAid Nepal, 2014

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